Just before Christmas I needed to find a bed in a hurry for a bedroom that had just been decorated. It got me thinking ‘Is LinkedIn like Yellow Pages for Business?’.
I needed the bed in 48 hours. OK, not quite as desperate as Joseph and Mary, but still quite urgent. We were decorating a bedroom and it needed to be finished ready for guests. I was keen to support local businesses so I took a look in the yellow pages we keep in the hall, by the phone. Pretty quickly I went online as the printed Yellow Pages didn’t give me many choices. A few searches online for the specific size (4′) and style (metal frame) and I was talking to a very helpful chap who provided advice, and who would deliver a suitable bed in 48 hours. Sorted.
Yellow Pages directory dominated before the Internet
Before the internet era the best directory of businesses was the Yellow Pages. When you wanted to find a business, or a supplier, that was where you went to first, or perhaps that was the ONLY place you could find new suppliers.
- If you knew the company name, and wanted their phone number or address, you could look in the alphabetical ‘Name Finder’ section.
- If you wanted to find businesses who could supply certain goods and services you’d go to the relevant category. Some companies would have paid for nice display advertising. Others would have just a single line entry.
- And as a business, if you were prospecting for potential customers the Yellow Pages for business was the place where many ‘cold calling’ campaigns started.
But over 20 years the world has changed, and there are other, better ways to find suppliers. Amazon wants to be the one place where you buy everything. Google wants to be the one place where you find everything, of which buying things is a subset. And LinkedIn is the place where business people can find talent and business solutions.
So many business directories, which do you choose?
Yellow Pages in its printed form is a shadow of its former self, as other offline and online directories like Thomson, FreeIndex, Applegate and hundreds more have sprung up over the years, and advertising revenue has shifted. Some are general directories. Some focus on very specialist niche markets.
The challenge now it seems is to find a reliable directory online, as they all jostle for position in the search rankings, on Google and other search engines.
LinkedIn like Yellow Pages for business skills and solutions
In the Business to Business listings market, LinkedIn is a bit of a dark horse. It is established as the global leader for finding professional people, which plays to the employment, skills and resourcing market.
But it is also an increasingly powerful directory for finding companies, either as potential suppliers or as potential customers. The two sides tend to develop in tandem:
- companies create pages on LinkedIn and list their products and services so their potential customers can find them
- companies and people offering products and services to specific niches can look in LinkedIn to find potential customers
The bottom line is ‘Are you overlook a major business directory and miss out on potential customers finding you?’
The Power of Searching the LinkedIn Company Page Section
Like the Yellow Pages, there are three ways to search the LinkedIn Company Pages.
- You know the company name so you check them out – for example if you are about to have a meeting with them, as a supplier or a vendor. If you have a meeting next week, try searching LinkedIn Companies for the company name as part of your preparation.
- You are looking to find supplier of particular goods or services in an industry or geography. In which case you can search LinkedIn Company Pages as you would in Google, by entering say ‘LinkedIn Training Bristol’, or ‘Lead Generation Bristol’. Search LinkedIn Companies for your main service and location and see what you find.
- If you are looking for prospects you can identify companies to approach by doing a search. There are classification and search issues to take into account though. Try the Advanced Search facility and select various check-boxes for Location and Industry, such as Accounting and Bristol. However this may not include all companies that provide accounting services who might classify themselves as management consultants. Results for ‘Accounting Bristol’ in the search box produces more results, but includes suppliers of accounting software, recruitment agencies and more. As with the Yellow Pages,multiple searches may be needed.
Searching Company Pages in LinkedIn gives you access to all companies listed on LinkedIn. However, if companies do not yet have a Company Page, or it is not optimised to the criteria that you are searching for, then they won’t show up on your search results.
The tipping point for LinkedIn Company Pages
Unlike many Directories who start by uploading a list of companies and then start to sell them upgrades and advertising, Company Pages need to be created by each company, or their representative. Companies who are listed are there by choice and deliberate action. As more buyers and other people realise the value of searching for companies by keywords and locations in LinkedIn to more important it will be to have a listing, and one that is optimised, so that it gets found for your key phrases. Searching specifically within the products and services pages is not possible right now, but it’s probably not that far away, and there are optimisation techniques to overcome this in the mean time.
Social Proof and Referrals for LinkedIn Company Pages
What LinkedIn provides, which the printed Yellow Pages never could, is customer endorsements and testimonials. These provide a prospect with an additional level of information to help them to short-list a potential supplier. When someone provides a testimonial it also alerts their network to your company or your products. This can be very beneficial as part of raising your company profile and gaining visibility.
LinkedIn Company Status Updates
Sending out regular Status Updates about your company also provides content that can be picked up when people do a search within LinkedIn. This is yet another way to raise your company profile. LinkedIn Company Pages and Products Pages are also indexed by the Search Engines. Advertising within Yellow Pages was a real advantage, when readership was high, as it created dominance, and it was time efficient. Create, place and pay for the advert once and it lasted for the whole year. Actively managing and promoting your LinkedIn company page may take a bit of time, but there is considerable scope to benefit from this, before your competition catch on.
It is unlikely that LinkedIn will ever be the place to find consumer and domestic products, like Beds. It’ll be a long while until it’s a definitive place to find domestic and trades people.
But for finding business professionals and checking out their credentials it is head and shoulders above other networks. And the company pages and products and services sections are catching up fast. Miss out at your peril.
LinkedIn company pages for lead generation
Being found is the first part of inbound lead generation. Having a message that engages with the visitor to get their attention, and lead them through to taking action to contact you are essential stages too. Writing good copy, adding graphics, video, promotions and other techniques can be used. The next step you might want the visitor to take might be to visit your website, contact one of your key staff, or call a phone number. LinkedIn company pages provide the platform upon which to build your message to achieve your goals and objectives.
LinkedIn Company Statistics – January 2013 – and November 2016
- All Companies, All Industries, Global = 2,757,970 – in 2016 there’s over 9m
- All Companies, All Industries, UK = 169,353 – 730k in 2016
- All Companies, All Industries, Bristol = 2,265 – over 11,000 in 2016